Technical Support, Speech Technologies, and the Internet of Things

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At the CES 2015 show in January, some of the top trends on display were wearables, mobile devices, connected cars and houses, and the Internet of Things (IoT). A common trait of the wares being displayed was their ability to gather data from the user, as well as provide data back to the user or third parties. Other attributes focused on the user interface, such as speech recognition or useful visual displays, and the products' ability to connect to the Internet and to other products.

Speech technologies had a significant presence at CES, from the user interfaces in cars and mobile devices to speech recognition and text-to-speech in robots. However, it is in the support of the ever-increasing number of complex consumer devices that speech technologies can play an even bigger part, and that is where the use of speech and text analytics capabilities to drive guided resolution for agents comes in.

Guided resolution melds interaction history and other pertinent data with what is happening in real time during subsequent customer service interactions (through the use of speech, text, and desktop analytics) to help the agent resolve service issues more quickly and accurately. Some solution providers using guided resolution also speak of "next best action," which refers to what the agent could do—or offer the customer—to make the interaction a success. Whether it is helping a customer decide on which shirt to buy or assisting with a complex technical support issue, guided resolution provides shortcuts for support personnel, reducing time spent searching for answers and delivering potential solutions, the best solution, or information to the agent desktop to aid agents in resolving the customer's inquiry.

More exciting, however, is an emerging category of customer and technical support tools that uses guided resolution along with other capabilities to provide a greater level of support to customers. Customer and technical support, which focus on increasingly complex goods and services, such as those presented at CES, have long used remote access and ticketing systems, customer relationship management, customer interaction management, and other data sources to help resolve technical issues. However, the growing complexity of products coupled with consumers' penchant for self-service and troubleshooting has created the need for more highly skilled and knowledgeable support personnel.

Support Interaction Optimization (SIO) adds new capabilities to increase the efficiency and accuracy of support interactions, while reducing the average handle time (AHT) for resolving issues. SIO is a set of solutions which integrate guided resolution with knowledge bases and interactive analytics that suggest the right answers and solutions to support agents. It provides the right balance of live and self-service assistance to allow customers to self-serve before seeking further help. Customer Web self-service can include the use of virtual agents, social community support, and collaboration and customer survey capabilities. Agent capabilities include remote access to customer devices and products, diagnostics, troubleshooting, and the ability to download new software. SIO also provides real-time decisioning, guided resolution, workflow management, agent collaboration on issues, analytics, and performance management.

Analytics tools built into SIO applications provide real-time insights into agent behavior, support processes, and product data. These tools uncover which routes—guided, custom, or support agents' free-form replies—solve problems faster and more effectively. They also check on agent compliance with guided resolution procedures, uncover process bottlenecks, predict AHT spikes, and detect product errors and malfunctions.

Companies that don't arm technical support agents with tools that can quickly resolve complex support issues risk being outclassed in customer support by the competition. With SIO, companies address the challenges of having to hire, train, retain, and keep agents up to date on increasingly complex product details and support issues. SIO also increases customer satisfaction levels by letting customers self-serve, and, if not, have their inquiries and issues addressed much more quickly and thoroughly.

A growing number of companies, including Avaya, Aspect, Citrix, eGain, LogMeIn, NICE Systems, Salesforce.com, Support.com, and Verint Systems, are supplying pieces or developing suites of SIO capabilities that are worth investigating. This trend is sure to have an impact on the future of your business. 

Nancy Jamison is a principal analyst for contact centers at Frost & Sullivan. She can be reached at nancy.jamison@frost.com, or follow her on Twitter @NancyJami.

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